David Cameron is giving a reading at Margaret Thatcher’s funeral later today, but this morning he gave his eulogy on the Today programme. He made the quite striking observation that ‘we’re all Thatcherites now’. In one sense this is quite an obvious comment: as countless commentators have observed over the past week and a half, Margaret Thatcher didn’t just change the way the Conservative party viewed economics and the state, she also changed the way Labour sold itself as a party. Cameron said:
‘I think in a way we’re all Thatcherites now because – I mean – I think one of the things about her legacy is some of those big arguments that she had had, you know, everyone now accepts. No-one wants to go back to trade unions that are undemocratic or one-sided nuclear disarmament or having great private sector businesses in the public sector.’
But the funny thing is that he wasn’t quite so keen to say that before the 2010 general election: in fact, he was just as careful to distance himself from parts of her legacy as he was today to align himself. His Radio 4 interview had him explaining where he’d like to go further than the Iron Lady: on local government. This shift is quite natural: today is Thatcher’s funeral. But it’s interesting that the Prime Minister feels the momentum is now gathering behind being a Thatcherite, and perhaps fading away from being a Cameroon.
Some of his Tory colleagues haven’t got that memo, though. Claire Perry found herself in hot water over the weekend for writing a piece that appeared critical of the former Prime Minister’s legacy. But others have taken her death as a sign that they should reflect about the state of the party as it is at the moment. One arch anti-Cameron backbencher told me earlier that the passing of Baroness Thatcher meant many of his colleagues were happy to give David Cameron the benefit of the doubt for a bit longer.